Microsoft Security Essentials v2.0 is released
Three days ago, on 16 December 2010, Microsoft Security Essentials v2.0 finally graduated from beta test stage and was released to general public. Microsoft Security Essentials is a great antivirus; in fact, it is one of the best antivirus products ever. Apart from its malware-hunting prowess and its user-friendliness, Microsoft Security Essentials is freeware; home users may freely download and install unlimited copies of it on their household computers. Small businesses can also install it on up a maximum of ten devices in their business environment.
The most important new feature of this antivirus is its Network Inspection System, a component for Windows Vista and Windows 7 that complements Windows Firewall (or any other installed personal firewall) and further protects users from threats that come from the Internet.
If you don’t have an antivirus, want to replace your current antivirus or have a previous version of Microsoft Security Essentials, I advise you to download and install Microsoft Security Essentials v2.0 immediately. Expect a maximum total of 70 megabytes of download.
Microsoft Security Essentials’ help file does a very inadequate job of telling you about the new features of this product. On a close inspection of the user interface, I discovered the following new features:
- Heuristics: Heuristics are now employed to discover new threats. This new feature, called behavior monitoring, is enabled by default but may be disabled in the Real-time protection tab of Settings dialog box.
- Network intrusion detection: A network intrusion detection system, dubbed Network Inspection System is now included with Microsoft Security Essentials. It is enabled by default but may be disabled in the Real-time protection tab of Settings dialog box.
- Performance: Microsoft Security Essentials now includes minor improvements that helps users tweak its performance. Users may now go to the Scheduled Scan tab of their Settings dialog box to indicate how much of the CPU capacity is used during scan. By default, only 50 percent is used. Users can also restrict real-time monitoring to either only incoming files or outgoing files. By default, the real-time protection is not restricted at all.
- Full opt-out: Users are now given the option to opt out of SpyNet and therefore send no information about the malware detected on their PCs to Microsoft Corporation. Previously, users could only choose between Basic Memberships or Advanced Membership.
- Log confidentiality: Reports and the contents of the quarantine are now more private. By default, they are only shown to administrators. Even they must press a revealing button. Users can now activate an auto-prune feature that automatically deletes quarantine items that grow older than a certain age.
Er… Good News?
What is most disconcerting about this release is the fact that Microsoft released this major update very quietly and stealthily. At time of this writing, there has been no coverage of this release on Microsoft News Center, Windows Security Blog or MMPC Blog. The only coverage that I found on a Microsoft-published web site is this obscure Russian blog post on TechNet Blog. The secondary sources that reported the release of this version (including this CNET NEWS article, this Windows7News.com post and this Lifehacker blog post) all use the term “quietly”.
Another disconcerting thing about this release is that the above third-party sources speak of features that I didn’t find in Microsoft Security Essentials v2.0 or its help documentation. For instance, they speak of some sort of integration with Internet Explorer that helps better protect the web surfers against online threats; However, I could not find any sign of this integration, neither in Internet Explorer Add-on Manager, nor in may network adaptor’s Properties dialog box. More over, such a component is already redundant since Internet Explorer 7 and later are all equipped with SmartScreen Filter.
All in all, this entire release story of Microsoft Security Essentials v2.0 is so unlike Microsoft. Still, Microsoft Security Essentials v2.0 is real enough: It is already killing malware.